BYU scores important road victory against UMass

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Neil Pau’u catches a 40-yard pass thrown by Zach Wilson on Nov. 10 at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots. (BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)

After a slow start in cold weather, BYU turned things around and rolled to an impressive 35-16 win against the UMass Minutemen at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

The first quarter began with UMass owning the game with an extended drive that led to an early field goal. BYU’s first drive ended after just one play with a fumble on a bobbled exchange between quarterback Zach Wilson and Aleva Hifo. UMass promptly scored their first touchdown and were quickly ahead 10-0 in the first quarter.

Jaren Wilkey
Matt Hadley breaks a tackle while adding to his team-high 73 yards on the ground against the Minutemen. (BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)

From that point on, it was all BYU. As BYU emphasized the ground game with the running back committee of Squally Canada, Matt Hadley and Lopini Katoa, BYU established control of the game and chewed up the game clock keeping UMass’ offense off the field. The Cougars would finish with 221 yards on the ground, the second most they’ve tallied all season.

Wilson had plenty of time to create big plays in the passing game, including two first-half touchdown passes to receiver Talon Shumway. Wilson threw 14 completions on 22 attempts while adding a pair of touchdowns and no interceptions through the air. He also added 56 yards on the ground, good enough for second most on the afternoon behind Hadley.

Shumway would go on to record three total receptions on the afternoon. This game would mark the first time Shumway would have two touchdowns in the same game as it also tripled his season total to three touchdowns.

Aleva Hifo made up for the early turnover with two touchdowns of his own later in the second half, totaling 73 yards on the ground. He would also add one reception for eight yards as BYU continued to extend their lead. They would rattle off 35 unanswered points before UMass scored a touchdown late in the game.

BYU did suffer the loss of Canada early in the third quarter. He left the field on his own but did not return to the game with a reported shoulder injury. Hadley carried the load for the rest of the game.

Isaiah Kaufusi and Sione Takitaki led BYU’s defense as they settled in and held UMass to only 6 points after the first quarter. Kaufusi and Takitaki had 28 total tackles between the two of them, also tallying 7 solo tackles apiece. 

BYU capitalized on the Minutemen’s mistakes, including a botched punt and several stalled drives. Senior linebacker Rhett Sandlin stepped up for the Cougars, totaling two sacks and a number of key plays on defense.

Over 3,000 alumni showed up to the game outnumbering the UMass fans in the stands. 

“We have a great home fan base and people that are willing to travel and come out to games,” Wilson said. “I think that means a lot, it gives us something to want to play for.”

After consecutive losses to Boise State and Northern Illinois in the last two weeks, this win could be the very morale boost the Cougars need to finish off the season on a high note. The Cougars find themselves within reach of bowl eligibility, needing just one win over their final two games to qualify for a bowl game.

The Cougars are back in action on Nov. 17 at home against the New Mexico State Aggies.

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